Coronavirus: Singapore sports

Local venues come alive

Packed schedule daily under strict measures albeit mostly without fans

Sport awakens in Singapore with more tournaments taking place this week. At the National Squash Championships yesterday, Josiah Chong returns to Mark Lee.
Sport awakens in Singapore with more tournaments taking place this week. At the National Squash Championships yesterday, Josiah Chong returns to Mark Lee.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR
Brandon Han putting at the EFG Singapore Junior Masters at Laguna's Masters Course. As part of Covid-19 measures, golfers are not allowed to remove the flagsticks.
Brandon Han putting at the EFG Singapore Junior Masters at Laguna's Masters Course. As part of Covid-19 measures, golfers are not allowed to remove the flagsticks.PHOTO COURTESY OF LLD SPORTS

For the first time in months, sport has come alive on local shores. There will not be a day without live sport this week, with at least seven events taking place, albeit under strict measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

In this action-packed week, junior golfers are back in the swing of things at the EFG Singapore Junior Masters, there are Singapore Premier League (SPL) matches as the title race goes down to the wire, and swimmers are gunning for an Olympic spot at the Singapore National Olympic Qualifiers.

Other events include the Marigold National Squash Championships, Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon's virtual races and grand finale, mixed martial arts promotion One Championship's Big Bang and the ActiveSG x Foot Locker 2v2 Basketball Tournament. If all goes well, this could be what the future holds for the local sports scene.

National squash player Samuel Kang's first competition back in almost a year was a very different experience from what he is used to.

Apart from the mandatory SafeEntry check-ins and temperature taking, participants in national championships can only enter the venue, Kallang Squash Centre, 15 minutes before the match.

"I feel like they're doing everything they can to make sure it's safe," Kang, 29, who is the men's open top seed, said of organisers.

"Hopefully it will all go smoothly and other sports can also resume having competitions and events."

Among the Covid-19 protocols for the tournament are the frequent sanitisation of equipment and courts, with courts cleaned daily and touch points such as door knobs and the glass back wall wiped with sanitiser hourly.

The other events taking place also have strict measures in place.

Unlike previous years' swim meets that had about 700 participants, the Olympic qualifiers, which will be held from tomorrow to Sunday, will see about 300 swimmers competing behind closed doors. The number of officials has also been cut from 30 to 14 and they will be required to wear a mask at all times while observing a 1m distance between each other.

The safe management measures for the EFG Singapore Junior Masters, which started yesterday and will end tomorrow, include a single-barrel, one-tee start and no removal of flagsticks.

Three Hong Kong players who were supposed to travel here within the Hong Kong-Singapore travel bubble were unable to after the arrangement was postponed.

National golfer Shannon Tan, 16, said: "I really looked forward to playing competitive golf, standing on the first tee and feeling that type of pressure. The thing that stood out for me was having the flagstick in at all times when putting as it affects my line of sight."

HIGH TIME FOR EASING

With the number of community transmissions in Singapore extremely low in the past month, infectious disease experts The Straits Times spoke to believe it is the right time to start allowing more live sports events to resume.

Dr Piotr Chlebicki, an infectious diseases specialist at Mount Alvernia Hospital, said: "It's not a difficult decision to allow sports events nationally... It's high time to release the restrictions slowly internally, but we're not ready for international events or spectators yet."

While most of the live sports events this week do not require athletes and officials to undergo testing, Associate Professor Alex Cook, vice-dean of research at the National University of Singapore's (NUS) Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, suggested considering testing athletes before events now that rapid tests such as the antigen rapid tests (ARTs) are more available and affordable.

He also recommended prioritising testing athletes in sports that involve more physical contact such as rugby and martial arts "given the risk of droplet-based spread". He added: "Right now, the risk in the community is extremely low, so this is a good time to start experimenting with safe ways to get us watching and doing sports."

SAFE RESTART SO FAR

Before this week, live sports events that were given the go-ahead by authorities, mainly events by One and the SPL, had not encountered major problems.

Before One's Inside the Matrix event on Oct 30, two cornermen tested positive, but the event took place with the duo kept out of it. Another cornerman tested positive ahead of Friday's Big Bang event at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, but the event is to go on.

Protocols for the event, which can have up to 250 fans in attendance, include the requirement for all foreign-based athletes, cornermen and staff to be isolated until they receive a negative test result, after which they will follow a strictly controlled itinerary that has been pre-approved.

Before the SPL resumed on Oct 17, 223 players and officials were tested and they have been undergoing fortnightly swabs without any positives.

On sports returning, Sport Singapore chief executive Lim Teck Yin said: "The gradual resumption of sporting activities and competitions is made possible through the collaborative effort of the whole sporting community.

"We are very proud to have reached this milestone and encourage everyone to keep up the good work."


Keeping sport safe

ATHLETICS

Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon 2020 Grand Finale

When: Nov 27-Dec 6

Number of participants: 10,000

Selected Covid-19 protocol:

• Virtual categories outdoors or augmented reality categories indoors at partner gyms like the 12 ActiveSG gyms will have safe distancing between treadmills

• Participants have to register for the Grand Finale Celebration event

Singapore Athletics Performance Trial 1

When: Nov 27-29

No. of participants: 91

Protocol:

• Maximum of 50 people at venue

• Staggering of events

• Alternate lanes used except for distance events

BASKETBALL

ActiveSG x Foot Locker 2v2 Basketball Tournament

When: Nov 26-29, Dec 5-6

No. of participants: 64

Protocol:

• Face shields and masks to be worn by referees and staff

• Balls will be sanitised before and after each game

• Teams only allowed to play once a day to prevent inter-mingling

• Only five people allowed on court at one time

• Designated sitting area for two groups of five (family/guests)

FOOTBALL

Singapore Premier League

When: Today and Saturday

Protocol:

• Teams are confined to their respective changing rooms after reporting two hours before kick-off, and both sets of players make staggered entrances to the pitch with no handshakes allowed

GOLF

EFG Singapore Junior Masters

When: Nov 30-Dec 2

No. of participants: 74

Protocol:

• Single-barrel, one-tee start

• No mingling of groups, no exchanging of scorecards, and no removal of flagsticks

MIXED MARTIAL ARTS

One Championship: Big Bang

When: Friday

Protocol:

• Restricted to 250 spectators, who are required to take an antigen rapid test on the day of the event

• Four Covid-19 tests for overseas-based athletes, cornermen and staff; isolation until they receive a negative test result

SQUASH

Marigold National Squash Championships 2020

When: Nov 28-Dec 6

No. of participants: 104

Protocol:

• Alternate courts used

• Enter 15 minutes before match; players competing in the next 15 minutes will be in a holding area where they will sit 1m apart

• A new ball for every main round match; for other matches, balls will be wiped with sanitising liquid before being reused

• Courts cleaned daily basis but touch points like door knobs are wiped with sanitiser every hour

SWIMMING

Singapore National Olympic Qualifiers 2020

When: Dec 3-6

No. of participants: About 300

Protocol:

• Venue split into four zones - stretching area, training pool, competition pool, diving zone - with 50 allowed in each zone

• Coaches can sit in a dedicated section in the stands

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 02, 2020, with the headline 'Local venues come alive'. Print Edition | Subscribe